Meet Lieneke – a life of dance, passion and inspiration

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“Who are you?” I asked. Her reply was “In this life, I primarily go by Lieneke Mous.” At that moment, I knew this interview was going to be an interesting one; full of good advice, love and spirituality.

You know sometimes you come across people and don’t get to spend a lot of time with them; but you feel this bond, a deep connection with them for some unknown reason… that’s what I felt when I met Lieneke for the first time in Norman, Oklahoma. She is an amazing, passionate person and just being around her will lift your spirits a little higher. For a long time I had wanted to know more about her. I couldn’t keep up with her nomadic pursuits, so I decided to do an interview with her (my opportunity to ask her questions I can’t in a normal conversation!). And I feel it’s about time I shared it with the world…

Lieneke is a choreographer, dance teacher, and performer based out of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In her own words, she is also an aerial yogini, curator, columnist, partner, friend, sister, daughter, meditator, sun gazer, tree-hugger, cyclist, and life lover.

She is a passionate dancer! “The first time I was exposed to it was when I was four years old, I vaguely recall watching ballet on television, and then I knew I wanted to dance. I started dance training when I was 5 and I never quit.” says Lieneke.

Travel

Q. You mentioned that you love to travel. What will be your next destination?

Many and any because I love to travel and I also work internationally so that gets me to travel abroad. I’m returning to Brazil to teach the next Changing Lives Through Dance (CLTD) p
roject in the summer of 2014.

Q. How have you made traveling a part of your life?

I always knew I wanted to do something with dance and theater, and I was looking for my path for a long time until I realized I was walking it already.

In my sophomore year in college, I conducted my first non-profit education project – I taught theater to girls living in a refugee center in the Netherlands. I felt a strong pull toward the ones less privileged than I, and of course the (inter)cultural aspects were fascinating to me. People from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia… all together. Little girls, born and raised in a refugee center.

In my senior year I set up the first dance project in Aimorés, Minas Gerais – Brazil. And the rest is history.

In 2007, I moved to the United States to attend graduate school for dance at the University of Oklahoma and worked there for some time. After that, I traveled to Brazil and India to teach dance to youths for my CLTD education projects. I am grateful that I have been able to turn my hobby into my work.


Charity

Q. Tell us more about Changing Lives Through Dance (CLTD). How do you think this will bring about change in society?

Changing Lives Through Dance (CLTD) includes dance projects for underserved youths in developing nations, such as Brazil and India. Artistic expression proves over and over that people become happier because they have an outlet to express themselves. Through creative expressions they become more in touch with whom they are (or want to be). It is rewarding to me to see others becoming happy because of what I am offering. I see that my students gain self-esteem and confidence from dancing and, in turn, they develop hope for a better, happier future.

Q. Why did you pick Brazil and India as CLTD destinations?

Brazil –

I was 17 when I first traveled to Brazil for a family vacation. I instantly fell in love with the country, the people, and their culture. I got in touch with a family friend in Brazil, who welcomed my dance and theater project for the youth of his rural city of Aimorés in the state of Minas Gerais. There, youths have little to no opportunity for artistic expression. The first time I developed a project there was in 2006, I returned in 2012, which ignited Changing Lives Through Dance.

India –

I had a dream to travel to India for many years. As I have grown older, I prefer traveling to places where I can contribute something to society

In 2012, discovered the Rescue Foundation through its Dutch partner organization Free A Girl and proposed my CLTD project. I then launched a fundraising campaign to meet the needs to travel to India and work with the girls and young women living in the shelter home.

Q. What next after the Brazil-India CLTD Project?

I am looking to further develop CLTD and start an official Changing Lives Through Dance foundation. I am launching a new fundraising campaign and am slowly, but surely establishing a board of directors and am expanding the teaching team. Of course we are open to receive donations 🙂 Additionally, I moved back to my home country the Netherlands and am currently living in Amsterdam. I work as a dance teacher, choreographer, and performer. Last summer I founded the Young Makers Platform, bringing together various performance disciplines in alternative locations for young, talented makers. The harsh economic situation is challenging especially for artists, so I am trying to stay inspired and continue to inspire others, so together we can create a happier world.

Inspirationlieneke_yoga

Q. Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I attempt to remove separations of work, living, etc., so the question could also be “Where do you find inspiration?” Easily answered: inspiration can be found anywhere as long as you’re open to it. A story someone shares about their personal victory after struggle. A dance. Hand-holding. A song. The morning sun. Each morning. A painting. Dripping paint on canvas and seeing the art unfold. Sitting with someone whose language I don’t speak. Being. Pina Bausch. Living. Ash. Love.

Message

Q. If you could say one thing to the world, what would it be?

I feel I’m bringing peace by finding peace within myself, by sending healing love to myself, by helping an animal cross the street, by carrying an older person’s bags… Living in the moment, for I’d be wasting time pondering over the past and contemplating the future. I try to eat healthy, raise my awareness, live from my center, and share love. And dance a cosmic dance.

Find Lieneke at her website or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Remembering my grampa, on his one year death anniversary

Every morning, I think of you.
It fills my heart with so much love.
I am so lucky that I could come see you,
I had my chance, to touch you, and say goodbye.

You left a void in our lives
When you crossed over to the other side
But I know you’re watching over us,
Blessing us, wishing us all the good things in life.

There is so much I want to say,
So, every night I sit and pray,
Knowing that you are there
And you can hear me say…

I love you and I miss you!

Non-negotiable checklist for my future lover

I am dependent on checklists. You can blame it on my poor memory or on my desire to always perform with utmost efficiency and perfection. Ramit Sethi didn’t help any by recommending The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. Whatever you pick as the excuse, the fact is that I live my life based on checklists. And damn right; I have a checklist for my future lover. So dear Mr.Future Lover, read on…

You should have a desire for personal growth. I don’t care about how dashingly hot you are. Or if you made a million dollars last year. Or if you are ‘the dude’. But I do hope that you read a little (books, internet, newspaper or something, anything). I hope you have personal and professional goals that you regularly work on. I hope when you achieve those goals, you set up some new ones. And I also hope that you respect my personal growth journey – cz I can tell you it’s not ending anytime soon.

You should be a mature human being. I know every man reading this is saying “Of course I am mature”. But really, are you? A serious relationship comes with great responsibility. I really hope you have made most of your major mistakes in life, learned from them and moved on. I hope you are self aware and strong – you will face new challenges in life confidently and will be the support system for me as well. And if we disagree upon something, which I’m sure we will, you should be able to disagree gracefully without holding grudges.

Respect my family. Accept my family. Mine might not be a perfect family; but whose is? We have our flaws, we have our problems, but at the end of the day – we are together and there for each other – no matter what. You would need to become a part of this mess. Get your hands dirty. And listen to my occasional rants. (Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.)

You must be an explorer. We don’t need to have same interests and hobbies. I mean let’s get real, I will never be able to enjoy sports like a man and you would never enjoy a chick flicks like a girl. But as long as you are up for trying new things, traveling to new places, going to restaurants we’ve never been before and just exploring life and the world – you can be my man!

Sense of humor is a big one! For me cz I like to take things easy and find good humor extremely attractive. But for you too. If you can’t look at little things and find humor in it, your life with me might turn out to be extremely difficult. I am silly and a lot of times I can be a super awkward potato (I love saying awkward potato). And the best way to deal with it I’ve found is to just laugh it off.

You should be a kind, compassionate and respectful human being. You need to love me unconditionally – that comes without saying. But in addition to that, you must also be compassionate and respectful to people, animals, choices, religions and situations. Now I don’t need no Dalai Lama; but if you are an insensitive douche, it’s just not going to cut it for me. Sorry.

You should have a stable life. Not only financially, but also emotionally.

And last but not the least – We need to be attracted to each other. Notice I said WE. If I am attracted to you and you are not, I am going to find out (cons of dating a smart girl) – and of course, vice-versa.

P.S. I know it’s a gender unbiased list for the most part, but I am really hoping that my future lover is a man. Just a personal preference.

I will not mourn your death; I will instead celebrate your life!

My grandfather, my dad’s dad, was a strong, confident, self-made man. He lost his father when he was still in school; and lost everything else he had, the house, money etc., during the India-Pakistan partition in 1947. He was forced to move to India, empty-handed, only with the responsibility to take care of his sick mother. And when he passed away, he was a lawyer, had a full family, a house and a lot of fans; including me. He was my coffee buddy, a foodie and my friend.

Over the past few years, he had been fading. He was diagnosed with the Parkinson’s disease, which not only took over his brain, but his entire body. His organs started to shut down one by one and he had multiple tubes in his body to breathe, take in food and take the wastes out. Slowly he had lost the ability to do even his daily tasks and was completely bed-ridden. Among other things, he also lost his speech. We all could see that he was suffering and was in a lot of pain.

On Feb 20th this year, I met him after year and a half and I was in shock to see him like that. But I was overwhelmed that he still recognized me. He looked right in my eyes, held my hand, so tight, and we both teared-up. The night I was leaving, it happened again. Except this time when I looked into his eyes, I had a feeling that this might be the last time I was doing this. I had a feeling that we might never meet again, at least in this lifetime. I took his blessings and said the final goodbye.

I reached home safely, and the very next day I got a call from my mom telling me that my grandfather, my dada, passed away. In that moment, I felt a deep connection with him. I felt that maybe he was hanging in there, dealing with all the pain and suffering just to see me for one last time. I can’t be grateful enough to have a chance to spend the last three weeks of his life with him.

This phone call changed my life; it changed the person I was; and it changed the way I looked at life. My grandfather taught me many things when I was a child, but what he taught me when he died, I will never forget.

He taught me that taking care of your body is important. Because your body is the only thing that you really own. And it decides how happy (or sad) your life will be when you get old.

That living simply gives you more time to focus on things that really matter to you, like family, friends and yourself.

That every action you do or every word you say affects people around you. So why not live a loving life; people will remember you for who you were and how you made them feel.

That you should never give up.

That you should never take anything for granted. Enjoy and be mindful of every little action of yours, breathing, eating, sitting, talking, and be grateful for it, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring with it.

Don’t complain about the difficulties in life, they don’t really matter at all in the big picture.

That if you are alive, your purpose is not over yet.

That death is inevitable; appreciate the people who are here whilst they are here. Spend more time with them. Talk to them more often. Make good memories while you still can.

I miss my grandfather greatly. I remember him when I sip my first coffee every morning. I am very proud of him for his love, for being a great man and for fighting so bravely till his last breath.  And for the same reasons, today I decide that I will not mourn his death; I will instead, celebrate his life!

RIP Grandfather. I love you, always.

 

2013 resolution – Smile and be happy. That’s it.

After much thought and anticipation, I have come up with my final resolution list for 2013. Yes, about time.

I declare 2013 as the year of happiness! This year, I pledge to do anything and everything to make me a happy girl (Cz happy girls are the prettiest *Batting Eyelashes*).

Here is the first ever manifesto I made. I call it the happiness manifesto. If you too relate to this, feel free to print/download/link-back to it 🙂

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What are your resolutions for 2013? Care to share?

Have a wonderful, joyous and magnificent year ahead! XOXO